Back in January of 2008, I set some business goals for the year. In no particular order, I’ll list each goal I originally posted in January, 2009 and beneath it in bold print I’ll list my progress (or lack thereof) next to it. Tomorrow, I’ll list the goals for 2009. Hope those of you new to the bookselling business find this helpful and those of you who are more experienced will have a good laugh at this beginning antiquarian bookseller!
1) Exhibit at at least three book fairs (San Francisco in February, Grass Valley in May, and Sacramento in September).
I exceeded this goal, exhibiting at four book fairs in 2008. I exhibited and sold books at the San Francisco, Grass Valley, Central Valley, and Santa Monica Antiquarian Book Fairs.
2) Get a real accounting system in place to keep better track of my records and to make tax reporting easier. Farewell, ledger book and pencil (well, maybe).
I did get Quicken, used it for a couple of months and gave up. Luckily, my BookHound program runs detailed sales and tax reports, and I keep track of other expenses the old-fashioned way. Still using paper and pencil, much to the accountant’s chagrin.
3) Learn a few technological tricks to improve the look of both my blog and my website. It’s hard to get specific on this one, as I know what I want, but don’t know the terminology or method for how to achieve it.
Still need to do this. I added very little inventory to my website in 2008, something I definitely want to change in 2009. I have too many uncatalogued books that I need to list there. I did manage to blog most days of the working week most of the year, and though that does not directly translate to books sold, I am happy I wrote nearly every day. I also sold several of the books I posted about on my blog to readers who inquired about them after reading my posts.
4) Catalogue more books. I have more books uncatalogued than catalogued. I’m starting with a goal of cataloguing a measly five per week (a big improvement over my more recent zero per week), but expecting to be able to develop enough of a routine to do ten per week. Stop laughing, you fast-typing, research-happy, terminology-happy book describers who list at least ten books per day! 😉 We’ve all got to start somewhere, and this is where I start. If I make it unmanageable, I’ll never do it. Starting with just five books — that’s one per day — seems doable to me.
Unfortunately, on many days, not even one book was catalogued. Some books were catalogued and then sold directly at book fairs, never appearing on my website. I certainly need to improve in the area of cataloguing, but in order to do so, I need to find consistent amounts of “free” (ha!) time. I did, however, acquire many more books and improved the quality of my inventory. Now if only I could get it catalogued so I could sell it, lol!
5) Increase sales from 2007. Get more books into the right hands!
My sales in 2008 were three times higher than sales in 2007, my first year of business. Of course, I do recognize that when one starts at the bottom, there is no where else to go but up, so tripling sales is not really as great as it first sounded to me. I’m guessing it will be more difficult (but not impossible) to do three times 2008 sales in 2009.
6) Put out the word that I both sell and buy books. A steady stream of new inventory seems to be crucial.
I did ok in this area, acquiring fewer books than in the past, but acquiring books of greater rarity and finer quality than before. I have improved the quality of my stock. I was also lucky to have a very good house call this year which yielded many good finds. That house call came from my letting people know that I do house calls. The lady who cuts my hair gave my phone number to the people selling the books and they called me. Lesson: Always put out the word that I both sell and buy books.
7) Cull out the overcrowded shelves and sell or donate a few books that really don’t fit what I’m trying to do with my business.
I did this last January and need to do it every year, maybe even twice a year.
8) List somewhere on the internet besides my own website — the Bibliophile List, the Rare Book List, ABE, TomFolio, Americana Exchange, etc.
I am sorry to say I did not begin listing books on any other sites aside from my own website. This was due to a combination of factors. First, I just don’t get many books catalogued and uploaded. Secondly, most of my work time this year was divided between book fairs, writing for this blog and for BookThink, and preparing direct quotes to existing customers. Oh, and more time was spent on hunting for books and researching them. I either need more hours in the day or an employee. Since I can afford neither of these, I focused on making most of my sales at book fairs, which proved to be a good strategy this year. Still, I very much want to increase my internet presence. Hoping to work on that in 2009.
9) Continue my bookseller’s education. Attend either or both the University of Virginia Rare Book School and the UCLA California Rare Book School.
I was fortunate enough to attend the UCLA California Rare Book School, a fantastic experience I highly recommend. I enrolled in the course The Book in the West, a class taught by California State Librarian and bibliographer Gary Kurutz. I also have a scholarship to use for the University of Virginia Rare Book School in summer 2009. I am acutely aware of the fact that one can never learn all there is to know about books.
10) Finish that Dante catalogue! (Really!)
Oh, the shame of it! Still not finished. Not because it is all that difficult — the catalogue is only just a bit over 50 items, all of which are described and priced. I just haven’t got the time to lay it all out, and because I desire to use images of all of the books, I want to wait until I make the time to do so. It’s very important to me that the catalogue have a visual appeal. Since I don’t necessarily need to sell the books right now (though that’d be nice), I have been taking my sweet time in finishing the catalogue. Still, I know I need to complete it, print, and mail it to be taken seriously as an antiquarian bookseller. Note to self and to other new booksellers: Maybe it’s not an advisable idea to take on a print catalogue with graphic elements unless you know how to put one together. Probably should have waited another year or two until I had a solid internet presence and had regular book fairs under my belt. It was just too difficult to do all three of these things at once and manage my domestic duties.
11) Come up with a daily (or few days a week, since I also have to manage a family and household) work routine in an attempt to use my time more efficiently.
Is this a joke? I think I actually used my work time less effectively this year. I have some real thinking and planning to do in this area for 2009. I’ll elaborate more when I post my 2009 goals.
12) Keep in touch with the booksellers I already know, and also meet some new booksellers.
Attending the California Rare Book School and exhibiting at four book fairs allowed me to meet quite a few other booksellers and librarians. I both bought books from and sold books to those booksellers. Some of the best items I bought this year came my way from other booksellers and I had my first sales to libraries this year. Both the purchases and the sales came as a result of getting “out there” and meeting people in person.
2009 goals to be posted tomorrow! Thanks for reading and following my progress.
See you in the stacks!